Today I visited the embassies of (in alphabetical order): Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. Everyone with whom I met was very helpful even if they didn’t know much about NGO’s working on peacebuilding and reconciliation in their respective countries. The people with whom I spoke either took my information and said someone would get back to me or gave me the correct email address and assured me someone would reply.
The Croatian embassy was the most impressive with a beautiful sculpture of St. Jerome by the famed sculptor Ivan Mestrovic in front. It also boasted the EU flag (which the other two countries don’t have yet). The political officer at the Serbian embassy told me they were actually renting their facility from Ethiopia (so where does Ethiopia hang its hat…?) because the embassy on “R” Street is undergoing renovations — “for several years now,” she said with the kind of laugh that made me think it would probably be under construction for “several” years yet to come. Both the Bosnian and Croatian consular officers assured me it was safe to travel with Serbian license plates and the Serbian officer gave me some useful advice about the safest way to visit the monasteries in Kosovo, if I should choose to do so..
So I got some useful information along with some insights, and also provided Waze with photos of all three embassies to help other Wazers find them (awarded 18 points total for that!). But the biggest “aha” of the day came, as these things often do, not from what I sought to find but rather what found me.
Consider: twenty five years ago there was one Yugoslav embassy; now there are six or seven (not sure if Kosovo has its own yet). I drove by both Macedonia and Slovenia today as well– Macedonia is a lovely Victorian house with a big wraparound porch and backs up to Serbia; Slovenia is very modern, lots of glass, also has the EU “you’ve made it” flag.
And consider this: Japan has a gorgeous embassy on prime Mass Ave real estate. 70 years ago? Not so much. Same with Germany — which has moved onto an impressive campus in the ultra upmarket Foxhall Road area of town.
But the real “aha” for me today was this: in the spring of 1985, a group of seminarians from Virginia Theological Seminary went to 3051 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC, 20008 to join a protest march. We actually were not permitted by police to march directly in front of the property but got as close as we could. We were peaceful, carrying signs deploring the injustice of apartheid. Several of the more courageous among us volunteered to be arrested. We felt good about what we had done but also, with great sadness in our hearts, could not truly imagine a day when that oppressive system would actually come to an end.
And then, today, I drove by 3051 Massachusetts Avenue again. And this is what I saw standing tall in front of the embassy of that once benighted land:
And I thought, maybe, just maybe that can also happen in other parts of the world now so rent asunder by hatred. Maybe, if Truth and Reconciliation could become a reality in South Africa, there is hope…